By Erica Wolfe-Murray
During the last month of the school summer term, I would find myself filled with a mixture of emotions.
Delighted to have my children home from school and all that would mean, I wondered how on earth I was going to balance their needs with my work for those long summer weeks. I tried hard to plan, but as the calendar counted down, I never felt I was quite as organised as I needed to be.
What plans can you put in place to ensure your children have a great summer break to reset their dials for the term ahead, have fun and enjoy family time, whilst you still deliver against your work commitments and deadlines?
The obvious first step is sharing care with your partner. Planning when each can take responsibility whilst the other works is part of everyday life. Except during the holidays, it is not just school drop-off and collection you are divvying up but all day care. Getting a plan in place with both parents’ employers is critical. If you are freelance or run your own business, you can arrange your working calendars to ensure your caring responsibilities are incorporated.
If other staff members also have children, developing a robust work calendar together to ensure everyone is supported through the holiday period can make a real difference. Involve the whole team in negotiating this, recognising that those without children will be impacted too and should be able to make their voices heard.
Of course, friends and family are also lynchpins as the holidays start – play dates and sleep overs become even more important, as you can swap care to help it balance with work.
Why not get together with a small group of friends to share holiday ideas, come up with activities you can do jointly or individually, perhaps looking after one another’s children on alternating days? Everyone will have ideas, imaginative ways of doing new and fun things. Some parents will be into crafts, making and cooking. Others will know of brilliant places to visit for little or no cost. Some may suggest games and activities to burn off all that wonderful energy. One idea will spark others and before you know it, there will be a rich list to fill those long summer days.
Harnessing the support of a college or university student to help entertain children whilst you are at work can be a less costly option than day clubs or courses. They will be keen to earn some cash and can be flexible around your working hours. Children love having a new influence in their lives – someone who can play different games, knows cool things to do, brings a fresh outlook into their lives. And even better if it is a much-loved older cousin or long-standing family friend.
Researching what is available locally may unearth some great holiday initiatives too. Libraries, museums, galleries, school buildings, sports clubs and parks will all have holiday programmes, some lasting half days, others whole days. If not, can you suggest a programme they could provide or an event they could host in their space?
But keeping your children happy and engaged is only one part of the equation. On the other side of the scales is how you balance your work against the extra responsibility of having the children at home all the time…
Recognising when you work best and most efficiently means you should ring-fence this time. It’s when you will get most done, so really use it to crack through the ‘to do’ list. Don’t waste time on unimportant matters, focus on the key projects and actions you need to achieve to ensure your working time is productive. If you find you’re falling behind at all, warn others in advance so others can step in to help or looming deadlines can be shifted.
Remember that you are not alone in having to work out how family and work life will intertwine during the longer holiday. Clients, customers and suppliers are also going to be facing similar issues. Don’t feel you need to sweep talking about your concerns under the carpet – be open, be honest. It could be that they have a hack that might work for you too. Or that you have a project you are working on which could involve bringing children to work for the day.
Can you split your work into two distinct halves – that which needs to be done with others in the office, and that which you can do remotely at home? Your role may have more of the latter than you may realise.
Don’t forget to harness tools such as Skype, Facetime, Slack and the like to keep you in touch with people and projects. There are so many ways to work now – being physically present really isn’t important in lots of roles so see if you can shift those types of projects to the holiday weeks to maximise your time at home.
Yes, summer holidays are a juggle between family and work, there is no escaping that fact. Being imaginative around it, with your friends, your family, your team, your clients can change it from an anxious, worrisome time to making it an empowering change that could herald new ways to work in the months ahead, once those school gates re-open.
Erica’s new book ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business’ is out now. Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business and developing greater commercial resilience – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business. Available from Amazon and all good booksellers.
About the author
Erica Wolfe-Murray is the UK’s leading business expert and the founder of Lola-Media.co.uk.
Her new book ‘Simple Tips Smart Ideas‘ is out now.